Stopford Brooke gave the inaugural lecture to the society on “The Need and Use of Getting Irish Literature into the English Tongue” (Bloomsbury House, 11 March 1893 -its delivery delayed to allow for the start of the National Literary Society in Ireland). Although the business of the ILS has always been conducted in English the Society was influential in nurturing the revival of the Irish language by programming language classes even before the Gaelic League was formed in 1893. It also sponsored the Petrie Collection of Irish Music and twelve-volume Irish library of history and literature published between 1893 and 1904. A Book of Irish Verse, designed to publicise the new societies, was published in 1895, edited by Yeats and dedicated “To the Members of the National Literary Society of Dublin and the Irish Literary Society of London.” It featured poetry by Rolleston, Hyde, Katherine Tynan, Lionel Johnson, AE and several others, with notes and an introduction by Yeats. In addition, the Society brought Irish actors to London in 1903 and 1904 to present plays by Lady Gregory, Yeats and others. By 1910 the society had grown to comprise nearly 400 members and helped to bring into existence the The English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS). The Society developed a proposal for a New Irish Library, a series of books to honor Irish culture, with Rolleston and Douglas Hyde as editors.
Its objects were ‘to afford a centre of social and literary intercourse for persons of Irish nationality, and to promote the study of the Irish language, Irish history, literature, music, and art.’ Honorary membership was originally available for those of other nationalities, today full membership is available to all.